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PBP: Zeus Chrysaoreus (Khrysaoreus)

February 9, 2012

"a year of exploring the Pagan world through blogging"

Zeus Chrysaoreus (Khrysaoreus) is variously translated as Zeus of the Golden: Arms, Axe, Sword, Spear, and Arrows. This epithet is used also used by Demeter, Apollo and Artemis. In respect to Zeus, Chrysaoreus probably refers to his lightning or thunder bolts.   Not much is known about this epithet beyond what Straubo says.:

Geography 14. 2. 25 (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :  “Stratonikeia [in Karia] is a settlement of Makedonians . . . There are two temples in the country of the Stratonikeians, of which the most famous, that of Hekate . . . And near the city is the temple of Zeus Khrysaoreus, the common possession of all Karians, whither they gather both to offer sacrifice and to deliberate on their common interests. Their League, which consists of villages, is called Khrysaorian. And those who present the most villages have a preference in the vote, like, for example, the people of Keramos. The Stratonikeians also have a share in the League, although they are not of the Karian stock, but because they have villages belonging to the Khrysaorian League.”

A little bit more is known about the Karian epithets which Chyrsaoreus is closely associated :

  1. Zeus Stratios (Warlike-god or God of Hosts) who received offerings before battle in hopes that he would grant victory and after battle in thanksgiving for victory. There are coins that depict an altar of Zeus Stratios which include: a bonfire, an eagle, a tree (symbol of royal power and good fortune) and a quadriga (chariot). Sometimes a bull is depicted on the altar.  This altar was on a hilltop near a grove of plane trees where the burning sacrifices could be seen for miles around.  Zeus Stratios was considered to be a protector, guardian and patron of armies and warriors.

 “on a lofty pile of wood on a high hill, according to the fashion of his country, which is as follows.  First the kings themselves carry wood to the heap.  Then they make a smaller pile encircling the other one.  On the higher pile they  pour milk, honey, wine, oil and  various kinds of incense.  On the lower they spread a banquet of bread and meat for those present…and then they set fire to the wood.  The height of the flame is such that it can be seen at a distance of 1000 stades from the sea, and they say that nobody can come near it for several days on account of the heat.  Mithridates performed a sacrifice of this kind according to the custom of his country” (Appianos, Mithr. 66)

  1. Zeus Labrandeus (He of the furious and heavy rainstorms) whose statue was armed with a double headed axe, the labrys. The axe that was associated with this statue was a spoil from war that was added to the temple of Zeus in Labranda.  Typically only a deity connected with war would receive war spoils.

Plutarch, Greek Questions, xlv: “Herakles, having slain Hippolyte and taken her axe with the rest of her arms, gave it to Omphale. The kings of Lydia who succeeded her carried this as one of their sacred insignia of office, and passed it down from father to son until Candaules. Candaules, however, disdained it and gave it to one of his companions to carry. When Gyges rebelled and was making war upon Candaules, Arselis came with a force from Mylasa to the assistance of Gyges, slew Candaules and his companion, and took the axe to Caria with the other spoils of war. And having set up a statue of Zeus, he put the axe in his hand and called the god, “Labrandeus,” labrys being the Lydian word for ‘axe’.”

Zeus Chrysaoreus was probably honored in the same fashion as Stratios and Labrandeus.  He would have been propagated for victory and then received thanksgiving offerings and trophies.  Deliberations were held with in his precinct which shows him as a guide and protector.  In modern times, a soldier could call upon him before going into battle.  Officers could call upon him to ask for help in making good decisions.  Those who live in fear could call upon him for protection.


Bibliography (probably incomplete)

Zeus:  A Study in Ancient Releigion by A.B. Cook Vol 2 Part 1

Cult of Greek States by Farnell

Aelian, On Animals 12.30; transl. A.F. Scholfield, Loeb Class. Library

The Religion and Cults of the Pontic Kingdom:  Political Aspects by Sergej Ju. Saprykin



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